INTERNATIONAL students can now seek free legal advice from the International Student Legal Advice Clinic (ISLAC) at The Couch on Bourke St.
ISLAC is the first of its kind in Australia, offering specialised assistance to international students in all legal matters, including problems with work, fines, accommodation, colleges, enrolment issues and migration.
“We have migration agents, as well as lawyers, available to help with these issues,” ISLAC coordinator Harley Dannatt said.
An initiative by the Western Suburbs Legal Service in partnership with Youthlaw, ISLAC will also run legal educational sessions for international students once a month on Tuesday, from 6 to 8 pm, beginning March 15, with an interactive workshop on public transport.
Toola Marcou, a lawyer from ISLAC, said it was important that students understood the impact legal issues could have on their visas.
She said most legal issues were usually closely linked to, or would eventually lead to migration and visa issues.
“International students tend to… try to solve problems on their own,” Ms Marcou said.
The legal service was formed after Sanmati Verma, now ISLAC’s volunteer community officer, approached the Western Suburbs Legal Service and rallied for a legal service for international students following a series of incidents in 2009 and 2010.
The string of private college closures that left many students in limbo, stressed out over the uncertainties of their enrolment and visa statuses; the spate of attacks on Indian students which sparked a protest in the city (see video) – highlighted the need for a dedicated avenue where international student could seek proper legal assistance, Ms Verma said.
She said ISLAC also aimed to keep track of the constant changes to Australia’s migration law policies and lobby for students’ legal rights in the long term.
“It’s one thing to say that we’re going to serve international students with legal problems,” Ms Verma said.
“We might not be able to make headway for them to negotiate for their futures in Australia, but we’re hoping to develop a tactic to really put in strong recommendations to the government about student visa reviews when they make plans to change it, and things like that.”
The International Student Legal Advice Clinic at The Couch (69 Bourke Street, Melbourne) operates Wednesday evenings, from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm, and students are invited to drop in anytime. If you are not able to attend the Wednesday nights, you can call 9391 2944 to make an appointment.
Students living in Melbourne’s west and east can also access the International Student Legal Advice Clinic by appointment:
- Wednesday mornings @ Newport (30 Hall Street, Newport), appointment only
- Thursday afternoons @ Box Hill Salvation Army Eastcare (31-33 Ellingworth Parade, Box Hill), appointment only
Visit the International Student Legal Advice Clinic website for more information.